Nigeria’s standard organisation seeks review of laws against counterfeit products

New law to grant SON wider regulatory powers underway before the end of the year.

The Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON on Wednesday decried the existing laws and regulations in Nigeria against fake and counterfeit products, deeming them more of incentives than deterrents to peddlers.

The Director General of SON, Joseph Odumodu, said at the Hewlett-Packard anti-counterfeit conference in Abuja that sanctions prescribed in existing laws were grossly inadequate to ensure effective enforcement of regulation against the menace.

“The current regulatory framework in the country is very weak, considering the very dangerous nature of counterfeiting coupled with the fact that our borders are porous,” Mr. Odumodu said. “Our consumers are highly ignorant, and corruption is at a high level in the country, one must be a magician to make a success of tackling the menace in this environment.”

According to him, the highest penalty in the country’s statutes was a maximum fine of N50,000 against any peddler of fake and counterfeit products.

“What this means is that a criminal who is bringing counterfeit products into the country would be encouraged to do so if he knows that he would be required to pay a token fine of N50,000 as penalty,” he pointed out. “Knowing the value of what he is likely to make from the business, he would prefer to break the law by bringing the fake and counterfeit goods into the country and keeping the fine ready to pay in case he is caught in the process. Therefore, the penalty for offences stipulated in the existing laws appears to be more of incentives to criminal activities, rather than a deterrent or sanctions.”

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He said the laws and powers of the regulatory agencies need to be sufficiently strengthened, such that the perpetrators of counterfeiting and the peddlers of fake products caught were handed heavy sanctions to serve as a strong deterrent to others.

Mr. Odumodu also bemoaned SON’s frustrations in enforcing even the limited regulatory powers guaranteed it by law, particularly the delay in prosecuting offenders as a result of lack of legal powers to do so.

Under the current laws, the SON cannot initiate immediate prosecution of arrested peddlers of impounded fake and counterfeit products without first obtaining a formal court order, a process, he said, was always bogged down by bureaucracy.

The SON DG said often where contraband items were impounded, investigations and prosecution of offenders were usually transferred to other agencies of government, like the police and Attorneys-General, that may not, due to corruption, have similar passion and enthusiasm sanction.

He was however optimistic that before the end of the year the situation would change for the better, as the SON was currently liaising with the National Assembly to ensure that a new legislation was put in place to grant SON wider powers to exercise its mandate.

Part of the powers the proposed new law would give the SON the right to impound fake and counterfeit products and destroy them within 90 days.

Other measures adopted by SON to check counterfeiting in the country, Mr. Odumodu said, include creating an electronic data system for registering products in circulation, an arrangement that would make it possible for all consumer products regulated by the SON to be issued a unique code inscribed on the pack, without which the product is considered not genuine.

Mr. Odumodu said the code was part of database kept by the regulatory authorities to help in tracing the fake product to its promoters from any part of the world as well as blacklisting agents, importers or manufacturers of such products.

He underscored the importance of collaboration between brand promoters and regulatory authorities towards consumer education against the negative consequences of counterfeit and fake products, saying the problem would be checked when consumers were sufficiently equipped with the knowledge to make the right decisions about the products they patronise.

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